A Paid-Off Car with High Miles, Not a Brand-New Car with Payments, is a New, Unspoken American Status Symbol

I noticed that back a few years ago, when I lived on the edge of Nashville, where income levels were lower than where I live now in my commuter town, that it was the norm to see so many fellow commuters driving luxury cars, on every side of me… which were obviously leased. Compare that to where I live now- people make more money, but drive older cars; not many Mercedes’ to be seen.

Owning a brand-new car is not worth celebrating, unless the person paid cash for it. Otherwise, the person is paying more money for something they couldn’t afford in the first place.

Imagine the irony: A person doesn’t have enough money to buy the product, so they agree to pay even more of the money they don’t have in the first place- in interest.

The Eighties and Nineties are long gone. No longer can we pretend we are doing financially well because of the false status symbols bought with credit. That mentality ended with the Financial Crisis of 2008; which happened to be the year I got married.

I believe our culture is now realizing that the new status symbol is being able to afford more, but choosing to save and invest that money instead.

If anything, the new status symbol is to be able to brag on how little money you paid for a product, not to allow others to believe you spent more. The new status symbol is being able to figure ways to save money and make money on the side, then share that info with everyone else. That has value.

We are living in the aftermath of the Financial Crisis of 2008. My generation is becoming the new version of those who lived through the Great Depression.

Being frugal and in full control of your finances is the ideal; not necessarily making a lot of money, only to continue to struggle to pay the bills and live in debt. Now it’s all about low overhead and living well within your means.

This month makes exactly 13 lucky years that I’ve owned my 2004 Honda Element, with 170,000 miles and a salvaged title; making it worth only about $500. Two years ago, it came within about $25 shy of being totaled, when an albino dear ran into my driver’s side door and wheel. (True story!)

But the way I see it, that car is worth a whole lot more than what I could sell it for.

It’s funny how typically, when a person “buys” a new car, the typical reaction is to be happy for them: “Oh wow! I like your new car! I wish I had something nice and shiny like that!”

When I overhear a conversation like that, I always privately think, “But yeah, now they have to be making monthly payments for the next few years, coupled with the insurance payments that accompany a new car…”

And it’s even worse if the car is leased, because there’s no chance of making any profit when the lease is done; in fact, you may end up having to pay more money if you drove too many miles or caused damage to the car.

So yeah, I am proud to drive my 2004 Honda Element. It’s a bit rusty and my kids complain about having to ride in it because, “It’s so old!”

But hey, it runs and it’s been paid off well over a decade.

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3 Ways to Enjoy the Weekend with Your Family, When You Live in a Commuter Town

As of this month, our family has now lived in our “new home” for 4 years. We moved from the edge of Nashville to a commuter town, or bedroom community, which is 36 miles from Nashville.

We reside in a town full of other families who are in the same situation as us: We drive nearly an hour to get to work each day, yet we live, eat, and sleep in our cookie-cutter homes which were built on top of old farm land.

So while living in a commuter town is great because it provides a more affordable, quiet, safe community to raise a family in an excellent school district, the major downside is that it’s easy to feel trapped there. This is because commuter towns typically have little commercial or industrial activity beyond a small amount of locally oriented retail businesses.

Therefore, the temptation lies in basing weekend plans around going to Nashville; having to travel with young kids for an hour one way, based around the kids’ desperate needs for naps they don’t want- plus having to pay for parking, food, and entertainment. Otherwise, we end up ironically feeling “stuck” in our house.

But this past weekend was really good for our family. And the thing is, we didn’t do much.

It was so noticeably enjoyable, that I decided to write this blog post to determine the formula for our success. So here it goes…

1. We didn’t leave town. When you have young kids, being in a car can pretty quickly drain your happiness level as a parent; especially if that drive is any longer than 10 minutes. So much stress is elevated from both the parents and the children when the family doesn’t have to leave town. Because even if it’s in the name of entertainment, it’s often not worth it if by the time you get there, everybody is tired and frustrated.

2. We didn’t eat any meals at restaurants. While not having to cook, or sit through a meal with kids who don’t want to eat anyway, then have to clean up for that meal is a glorious thing, the reality is, it’s still not that great to have to pay money for food while having to entertain and referee kids who don’t want to be there in the first place. When I was a kid, I loved eating at restaurants. But I recognize that my kids’ generation is apparently not wired the same way.

3. We did hang out at a locally owned coffee shop. While dining at a restaurant can be a bit too much with young kids, going out for coffee can be totally enjoyable for the whole family. We visited our favorite local coffee shop, Legacy Coffee, this past Saturday morning. Not only is the coffee the best in town, according to my wife and me, but there are plenty of freshly baked pastries for the kids. So we hung out for about 20 minutes, all enjoying our delicious calories. It was a fun outing, yet it didn’t require much of a drive, or a time commitment, or a heavy bill, yet it helped contribute to a local business.

So that’s my advice, if your family also lives in a commuter town.

Sure, we travel to my parents’ house about 2 and a half hours away once a month, and go on vacation to California as well as Florida each year.

But other than that, the majority of our weekends take place where we actually live. So for those weekends, I will be more mindful of these three tips I learned this past weekend.

Dear Jack: Your Brand-New Homemade Lizard Blanket!

8 years, 1 months.

Dear Jack,

Last week, you stayed at Nonna and Papa’s house for a few days while school was still out.

You and Nonna stumbled across some unused fabric from 20 years ago, of lizard print.

So that gave you the idea to ask Nonna if she could make you a lizard blanket.

Just your luck, she was happy to do it!

She took you upstairs to her sewing machine, so you can to see it being made.

Needless to say, you were to proud to bring home for brand-new, yet very classic, homemade lizard blanket.

It is safe to say that it is the only one in the world:

A small blanket with lizard print on one side, and a soft plush on the other.

 

Love,

Daddy

So I Guess I’ve Always Been a Side Hustler; Being a “Gum Dealer” in High School and Running a Convenience Store from My College Dorm Room

Looking back, I realize now that I’ve actually always been a side hustler; even in high school and college. Earlier today, I published an article declaring that my 5 SEO side hustles all made me a minimum of $1,000 each in 2018. But that mentality has been a part of me, undeniably, since at least when I was a teenager in high school. (See picture above.)

Here on the first day of 2019, I am learning a little bit more about myself. The fact that I have 5 side hustles as a 37 year-old man makes perfect sense, considering my scheming ways back to when I was a teenager.

When I started high school, I couldn’t help that notice that chewing gum was high in demand in the halls of my high school. It just so happened that it was weekly tradition that I would accompany my mom in buying groceries. I noticed that I could buy a multi-pack of Wrigley’s gum at nearly a wholesale price for $1.25; which contained 10 packs of gum (each of which contained 5 sticks of gum), then I could sell each pack for just a quarter. By the time I sold the 10 packs, when I could easily do in a 10 minute break, I had made $2.50. In other words, I was making 100% profit!

It didn’t took long before I became known as “the gum dealer.”

This was great for me. I got to social with all the different groups of friends, and met new ones, by offering them the best deal on chewing gum during each of our two breaks each day during high school.

It was also during high school that I began making my own videos, on VHS. Not only did I direct a horror movie, called “Frosty Bites”…

But I also filmed hair videos, too…

In case you missed it, I made over $4,000 in 2018 from my most popular YouTube channel and its Amazon links, which focuses on men’s hair and beards. And that’s not counting my 2nd YouTube channel, as well. This is not a coincidence.

Then when I moved into my college dorm, Dorm 15 at Liberty University, I took my gum dealer experience and opened up my own convenience store, using two micro fridges, and buying all my products for wholesale price at WalMart.

I sold soda, Little Debbie snack cakes, Ramen noodles, Hot Pockets, and frozen burritos. I even let my customers heat up their food in my microwave, so they could hang out with me while their food was preparing. I appropriately named my store, The Freshman 15.

Those profits went to financing my mission trips to Thailand in the summers of 2003 and 2004, where I was a 4th grade teacher specializing in ESL…

then teaching conversation English to high school students and adults.

Some things just never change. I am and always have been a side hustler. This is simply part of my identity.

At Age 37, My Wife and I Have Begun Investing Our Money, Thanks to Charles Schwab

At age 37, I am fully aware that I am now at the halfway point of the average American lifespan. I suppose this is literally the most appropriate time to have my midlife crisis.

Finally, I can trade in my old paid-off Honda Element for a brand-new Jeep Wrangler, take a spur of the moment trip to Spain, and start training for American Ninja Warrior…

But instead, I am focusing all that energy into planning for the 2nd half of my life- and my wife’s, as well as our children’s future.

My wife and I got married 10 and a half years ago, right in the middle of the 2008 Financial Crisis.

The first half of our marriage was spent building our careers from entry level positions and trying to manage the tens of thousands of dollars of debt we were in; largely due to college loans and our wedding.

The most recent half of our marriage began with us finally becoming debt-free in 2013, buying the last steal-of-a-deal new home in the Nashville area, and both finding ourselves far enough into our careers and side hustles that we started making a comfortable living.

But as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid explains, your goals and motivations evolve as you overcome your previous more basic needs and desires.

Now the focus is… how to invest our steady stream of income into our future.

I thought it was as simple as just paying off our house, then worrying about retirement afterwards.

However, my wife has been listening to the Moneywise program on Moody Radio on the way home from work each day. She explained to me that based on our interest rate on our home, it would actually be a better investment of our money to start building our retirement now, alongside paying off our mortgage early.

My wife then set us up an appointment with Charles Schwab financial investment company, which she had been hearing endorsed on Moneywise.

Today was the big day.

Our financial advisor helped us rollover my 401K from my previous employer to traditional IRA and select a portfolio for it. She also gave us direction on determining our financial goals so we could better plan our retirement and our kids’ college funds.

This was a major milestone for us. Here’s to the second half of life!

4 Things to Consider Before Giving Jewelry to Your Kids  

Pieces of jewelry are great gifts to adults and children alike. While most people consider jewelry as a priceless possession, every piece has its price tag, so you want to ensure that it will be used, kept, and treasured forever.  

Giving jewelry to your kids is entirely different from buying them new toys. Jewelry is far more expensive and can be a source of major disappointment when your child accidentally misplaces or loses it. So, here are the important things you need to consider before you give jewelry to your kids:  

  1. Type of Jewelry 

Jewelry for adults is different from jewelry for kids; hence, you need to carefully choose the type of jewelry that you give as a gift. Here are some examples of jewelry pieces that are appropriate for kids: 

  • Monogram and name necklacesThese types of necklaces are perfect for grade-school kids. They are personalized and are appropriate for both girls and boys. You may have the initials or the name of your child designed or engraved into a beautiful pendant. 
  • Birthstone earrings. Dainty birthstone earrings are classic jewelry pieces that will never run out of style and will never be outgrown. They can be given as gifts not only on birthdays but on all types of occasions. For instance, you can give tourmaline or opal stud earrings to Octoberian birthday celebrants. 
  • Earrings in fun shapes and characters. There are different styles and designs of earrings that girls love, such as tiny hoops with fun shapes, flower-theme dangling earrings, cupcake-inspired design, and favorite cartoon character designs.  
  • Rings in colorful and playful designs. Rings are recommended for older kids because they can appreciate them. Choose colorful and playful designs, and your kids will surely love them and wear them every day.  
  • Charm bracelets. Give your kids charm bracelets to remember the most important events or milestones in their lives. For instance, you can give your daughter a basic bracelet for her 7th birthday. As the years go by, accessorize the bracelet with charms that represent your child’s achievements. 
  1. Age of the Child 

The age of your child is a crucial factor to consider before you decide whether it’s practical and sensible to give such a valuable gift. Here are some reminders when buying jewelry for your kids: 

  • Toddlers and preschoolers tend to damage or lose items, especially jewelry. It’s okay to give earrings such as gemstone or birthstone studs for your baby girl because they hardly notice or remove it.  
  • School-age children appreciate cute necklaces and bracelets. Your son will appreciate a new stainless-steel necklace and bracelet with his name engraved on it, like that of his favorite rockstar. Your daughter will be surprised and possibly request a set for her charming jewelry collection. 
  • Teenagers are starting to develop their fashion sense. They would appreciate a simple jewelry set that they can wear to complete their OOTDs. 
  1. Safety

You may want your baby to wear fine jewelry on her christening or when attending special occasions, but you’re also worried about your baby’s safety.  Here’s how you can keep your child safe when wearing jewelry: 

  • Make sure that there’s nothing around or in the jewelry piece that could pose a choking hazard, such as tiny charms, loose embellishments, and delicate extensions, to young children, especially those aged 5 years and below.  
  • Constrictive jewelry could cut off proper blood circulation, so choose necklaces and bracelets with appropriate length.  
  • Bring your child to the jewelry shop to try a necklace to ensure appropriate sizing.  
  1. Make and Durability 

Invest in a long-lasting jewelry piece that your children will cherish forever and that would possibly become an heirloom that will be handed from one generation to another. According to The New York Times, jewelry changes people, so its make and durability say much about the person’s character and personality, including your child’s perception about what a “priceless gift” is.  

As an example, a pair of diamond stud earrings is a precious gift you can give to your daughter for her graduation or debut. Diamond is a precious and durable material, and so are platinum, gold, and silver.

Conclusion 

Jewelry usually holds great sentimental value for the giver and the wearer. It connects the heart and minds of two people, most especially a parent and a child. Parents always want to give the best for their children, and giving your kids jewelry is like showing them how much you love and care for them. More than the price, it is the thought that truly counts. At the end of the day, what your children will love and appreciate are all the time and effort that you have devoted for choosing the best jewelry gift for them.  

Photos: Shutterstock

Dear Jack: You and Your Sister Willingly Shared a Bed During the Christmas Holidays

8 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Though you could have slept down the hall in your very own bed in the bonus room while we stayed at Nonna and Papa’s house last week during Christmas vacation, you opted to sleep on the trundle bed attached to your sister’s bed.

But I noticed that all four nights, you and your sister ended up in the same actual bed. She would roll off her bed in the middle of the night onto your bed.

And then by the 3rd night, she decided she wanted to sleep on the trundle bed instead. But of course, she crawled up into your bed those nights after you fell asleep.

The funny thing is, you had no idea. You slept through all of it either way.

Love,

Daddy